Each day leading up to Sept. 21, the official start of Sixers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.
In today’s Give and Go, Matt Haughton and Noah Levick discuss whether Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons will see the bigger increase in production.
This is definitely a good problem to have if you’re the Sixers. Embiid and Simmons are already elite players and still just scratching the surface of what they can become in the league.
As everyone knows, the key to Simmons unlocking the next level in his game is being able to consistently make a jump shot. While I expect him to be better in that aspect, it will still come down to him trusting his jumper at certain times. Being able to do it is one thing; opting to do it is another.
When you look at Simmons’ other primary numbers, no matter how much better he plays, it’s going to be hard to significantly improve on 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game.
Embiid’s progression could simply come down to conditioning. The All-Star admitted he didn’t enter last season in the best shape after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus. The numbers displayed that fact as Embiid recorded 20.8 points and 10.0 rebounds a night in October. The 24-year-old averaged 23.5 points and 11.0 boards a game over the course of the other four months of the 2017-18 regular season once he worked his body back into form.
Finally, with a full offseason of working out under his belt, I’m expecting big things from the big fella. He may not end up in the MVP conversation like he desires, but a nice bump in productivity should be on the way.
For Embiid, trainer Drew Hanlen has said low-post dominance, three-point shooting and “playing on the perimeter slash taking care of the ball” were the three offseason priorities. I expect Embiid to make marginal improvements in all those areas.
I’m especially bullish on his long-range shot — he’s just too smooth a shooter to only be making 30.8 percent of his three-pointers. Being in peak physical condition (something Embiid admitted wasn’t the case last season) should help his all-around game.
For Simmons, the jumper is the enormous elephant in the room. I think it’s reasonable to expect Simmons will add some sort of midrange game, and that he’ll be better than last season’s 56 percent mark from the free throw line. His 70.7 percent shooting from the charity stripe in the postseason is a positive sign.
Outside of shooting, there are plenty of other areas where Simmons should improve, including in the post. Last season, Simmons averaged just 0.88 points per possession on postups, which was 17th percentile in the league. Simmons usually had the size advantage over opposing point guards, but he often settled for turnaround jump hooks or rushed up shots.
I give Simmons the slight edge here, mostly because of how easy he made posting 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game without a jumper look … as a rookie. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Embiid, who has said he has MVP ambitions, is so dominant he makes me regret that pick.